Older B.C. trucks to require retrofit emissions devices

by Steven Macleod

VICTORIA, B.C. – Semi-trucks a few years past their prime will be in need of a makeover, following legislation recently introduced by B.C.’s Environment Minister. B.C. will be the first province in Canada to make clean technology mandatory on older commercial transport diesel vehicles in order to reduce diesel emissions and protect human health, according to the minister.

“Hospital visits as a result of poor air quality cost our B.C. health care system an estimated $85 million a year – these costs and human health impacts can be reduced,” said Environment Minister Barry Penner. “This new regulation will reduce particulate matter by up to 60 tonnes per year and contribute to cleaner, greener communities.”

The new regulation will require the mandatory installation of Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) filters, or an equally effective technology, by 2009. The regulation will affect on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle models from 1989-1993 and installation of the DOC units will cost approximately $1,200 to $2,500 each (depending on the supplier, engine size and model, exhaust configuration and installation costs), affecting approximately 7,500 vehicles.

Despite the cost being passed along to the trucking industry, the B.C.Trucking Association is supporting the regulation.

“B.C. is fairly forgiving on the age of equipment, although not many highway carriers use equipment from 1993 and older,” said Paul Landry, president of the BCTA. “We’re supporting this change. When I talked to the Board of Directors, they felt older equipment should be subject to new modification. A premium has been paid for the 2007 trucks, and not only with the engine standards but the newer equipment has an energy efficiency penalty – with increased fuel consumption – so it’s only fair older equipment makes a contribution as well.”

DOC filters are one of the clean technology options that are easily installed on most vehicles, require virtually no maintenance, do not have a negative impact on vehicle performance or fuel consumption, and are compatible with biodiesel.

The new regulation will affect only heavy-duty diesel vehicles 5,000 kg or more, including on-road commercially-licensed diesel vehicles and government-owned fleet vehicles. Recreational vehicles, motor coaches, pick-up trucks, construction equipment and unlicensed off-road vehicles will not be affected.

However, once in place, the B.C. government will continue to consult with industry and other stakeholders to incorporate other model years and other sizes of vehicles as part of the government’s continuous review and improvement of air quality.

B.C. is the first jurisdiction in North America to make retrofit technology mandatory, although California is planning to make it mandatory by 2009 as well. Although the BCTA is supporting the retrofit regulations introduced by the provincial government, Landry would like to see the province move forward with other regulations, which could be implemented at a lesser cost to the industry.

“We think there are a bundle of initiatives that could provide benefits to carriers and the environment,” Landry told Truck News. “We’re promoting a package of changes that will help our industry meet standards set by our Premier for our industry.”

Among the changes the BCTA is putting its support behind is: the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s speed limiter policy; support for anti-idling devices and strategies; including flexibility on weights; support for the introduction of weight equivalency for super-single tires; and encouraging the government to expand the use of long combination vehicles (LCV).

Long combination vehicles have recently been allowed on a B.C. highway route between Burnaby and Kamloops under a new pilot project to evaluate the vehicles on provincial roads.

“If these vehicles work well under this pilot, we’d like to run them on this stretch of highway over the long term,” said Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon. “Long combination vehicles can haul about 40% more freight than regular trucks of this type and that means more efficient movement of goods, fewer trucks on our roads, and lower emissions.”

The LCV – or Rocky Mountain Double – is a tractor and two semi-trailer combination that is six metres longer than standard vehicle combinations of this type. During the pilot, the ministry will monitor and evaluate the safety record of the vehicles, as well as consider any feedback from other road users. Fuel consumption savings and related greenhouse gas emissions will be tracked to measure environmental benefits; and the pilot project is expected to run until the end of October

While the pilot program is a welcome development, Landry would like to see the program expanded to include more thoroughfares in the province.

“While that pilot program is underway we hope consideration is given to other highways in B.C., under the same terms and conditions where that equipment could be deployed there could be significant benefits,” he explained.

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